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The Ultimate San Francisco Sourdough…Griffin's Bread

Griffins Sourdough Bread

Griffin's Sourdough Bread

Well, I can finally say, “I did it!” after several years of varied experimentation with sourdough, I have finally achieved what I was aiming for. I really can’t believe it.

I experimented with high hydration doughs, low hydration doughs, all kinds of different formulations of doughs, timing, temperatures, autolyse, no autolyse, flour blends, different starters, motherdoughs,etc. If you look back in this blog you will find so many different experiments including some that were not too successful. It is a kind of history of my love affair and addiction to sourdough baking. I was very much stuck on wet or high hydration doughs for a very long time. I experimented with lower and medium hydration doughs too, but I was pretty much stuck on high hydration doughs. Recently, I became more driven to accomplish what I have been aiming for, that is, a San Francisco style sourdough that was light, airy, sour, with a crisp, crunchy crust and the wonderful color and flavor I fantasized had to be possible. I aspired to accomplish this in a home setting with a boring, plain oven and whatever I could come up with for tools. I shared my experimentation on my blog and started a small at home business selling collected sourdough starters and sourdough baking equipment. I can tell you I have never had so much fun and experienced so much passion over something. I know a lot of you are addicted to sourdough baking and getting the elusive “perfect loaf”. I know because I have had literally hundreds of emails asking me questions and hoping for help. I started a sourdough forum for that reason.

Anyway to get back to the ultimate loaves. On the forum , we had recently been discussing the “sour” factor of sourdough bread and how difficult it was to acheive consistantly, in a white sourdough loaf. I have also been working on putting together my book on my “Sourdough Discovery” and have a group of testers working on testing the recipes. Some of the recipes dealt with my favorite “Motherdough” recipes. The flavor of motherdough sourdough so outstrips the competition, that you just can’t compare it to regular sourdough breads. But I wasn’t getting a consistant “sour.” I was doing a lot of research for my book and have Michael Suas book on “Advanced Bread and Pastry”, Raymond Calvel’s book on “The Taste of Bread” and the expensive, important book by Karel Kulp and Klaus Lorenz , “Handbook of Dough Fermentations”, which shares the work done by Frank Sugihara, and many other scientists and microbiologists, on the  scientific side of fermenting dough and starters. Invaluable stuff! I learned about when the dough was capable of producing the most acetic acid, which helped me in my technique. I learned about keeping starters at the right temperature to promote the growth of the bacteria which produces the flavor in sourdough breads. I was challenged by Arthur in the forum to come up with a “sour” in sourdough bread. So I was working on lower hydration motherdoughs at 60 and 70 percent hydration. They were really beautiful loaves with great flavor:

60% Motherdough Test

60% Motherdough Test

60% Motherdough Test Crumb

60% Motherdough Test Crumb

I was close, but the sour was light to moderate and sometimes not there. No consistancy in the “sour”.
Then came this test:
Griffin’s Sourdough: (named after my grandson)
I began to experiment with higher temperatures in dough fermentation. My work in that area was confirmed when I read the book on “Handbook of Dough Fermentations” (named above). I jury rigged my dishwasher to use as a proofing cabinet. When I turned on the heating cycle for so many minutes, I was able to get a temperature between 80 -90 degrees. I added some coffee cups to the top rack to help hold in warmth and used the bottom rack to hold the proofing dough. Perfect! The humidity is also great in the dishwasher when you add a little water to the bottom.
I mixed up a motherdough at 60% hydration using my San Francisco starter and fermented it for several days.I mixed up the dough using the regular autolyse. Then I put the dough into a dough folding trough. I put the whole trough with lid into the heated dishwasher. I had a thermometer in the dishwasher and turned the heating coil back on whenever the temperature fell too low. I kept the dough warm for several hours. Mixed dough ready to bulk ferment
Motherdough fermented in the refrigerator

Motherdough fermented in the refrigerator

Fermented Motherdough

Fermented Motherdough

 I mixed up the dough using the regular autolyse. Then I put the dough into a dough folding trough. I put the whole trough with lid into the heated dishwasher. I had a thermometer in the dishwasher and turned the heating coil back on whenever the temperature fell too low. I kept the dough warm for several hours.

Finished dough ready to ferment

Finished dough ready to ferment

 When the dough looked like this, I folded it:

Dough ready to fold

Dough ready to fold

 That was around every 45 minutes or so. When the dough was done bulk fermenting, I shaped it and put it into bannetons:
dough in bannetons

dough in bannetons

I covered the dough in plastic bags and put it into the refrigerator at 44F  degrees overnight. It rose slowly overnight. I have a dedicated refrigerator, you would have different results at temperatures below 40 degrees. Next day I took out the loaves one by one and put them back into the preheated dishwasher. I proofed them between 80 – 90 degrees until ready to bake. I baked in a preheated oven with the roasting pan method . I baked at lower temperatures than I have been using. 425F to start with and then turned down to 400F degrees, I then baked longer than usual, 35 – 40 minutes depending on the size of the loaf.
The results were the lightest, fluffiest, holey, soft crumb, with a crisp thin crusty crust. The flavor and sour were so incredibly good that I had people’s eyes pop in wonder and many nice expletives spoken. Just the smell of the bread made me exclaim, “No way!”
No, I cannot do justice to this bread when I try to describe it, you had to have been there, you had to have tasted it.
Griffens Sourdough

Griffin's Sourdough

More Pics

More Pics



Griffens Crumb

Griffin's Crumb

Griffens Crumb Closeup

Griffin's Crumb Closeup

 Seeing how fluffy and light weight the crumb is:

See Through Crumb

See-through Crumb

See the thickness Sorry about the blur

See the thickness Sorry about the blur

This was a low hydration dough at 61 % hydration, and it achieved that holey, light fluffy crumb! These two pound loaves felt like maybe a pound each, they were so light.

So much for having to have a high hydration dough to obtain those wonderful holes! So much for low temperatures to obtain the sour! No wonder, we home bakers had a hard time obtaining a good sour, no wonder I didn’t have consistant results. Jeesh, if I could have just thought outside the box much earlier!!  I wish I could bake each one of you a loaf, so you could taste it for yourself.  I have the recipe and technique down pat and will continue to experiment with the timing and temperatures. I have replicated the first results with a second batch. Here is another batch of Griffen’s Sourdough Bread. San Francisco move over…. !
This is the second batch of Griffen’s Bread:
This batch was even better, it had a crisp crackly crust that shattered when I tried to take pictures, breaking off blisters:
Griffins Sourdough Bread

Griffin's Sourdough Bread

Now don’t begrudge me day of happiness! I have never had any professional training(yes, I would love to have professional training but can’t afford it), I don’t have a Jenn Aire or super duper oven with steam injection, jeesh, my oven doesn’t even have digital anything or self cleaning(yes, I aspire to owning a great oven with steam injection). I am just a home baker like many of you. I started out several years ago baking bricks, just like many of you. So share in my happiness, and may all of you bake “that perfect loaf” too.
Submitted to Susan at Wild Yeast for Yeast Spotting at http://www.wildyeastblog.com/category/yeastspotting/
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  1. elisfoods elisfoods
    December 14, 2008    

    Those aere amazing!! Congrats and I will have to refer to this page again! That crust is remarkable, the crumb is better than any I have seen from the professionals! Please alllow me to thank you for sharing such a sucess with us! They really do look great.

  2. December 14, 2008    

    Beautiful bread!
    I’m so pleased for you. Amazing blistering and crumb. I can only imagine how it must taste.
    Serious congratulations.
    I’d be interested to hear some of your thoughts about the science behind it. My own (strictly novice) opinion would be that different temperatures during bulk and final proofing allow both acetic and lactic acids to fully develop. I’d always believed the conventional ‘wisdom’ that acetic acid was produced in cold conditions with a stiff dough, while warmer, wetter conditions favoured lactic…but I’m sure it’s not that simple.
    Congratulations again!

  3. elisfoods elisfoods
    December 14, 2008    

    I also meant to ask you, now that you have acheived that elusive “perfect loaf” perfection will you stop and just take up gardening or basket weaving?

    If I had produced those loaves I think I would sit on my laurels and sign 8 x10 glossys and send them to all the modelling agencies looking for a new face, umm loaf!


  4. December 14, 2008    

    wow, imagine schlepping a dishwasher into your bakery to get such nice blistering!
    Doing us proud!

  5. Patty Patty
    December 14, 2008    

    Beautiful! Congratulations on thinking outside the box.

  6. Amanda Amanda
    December 15, 2008    

    Those look fantastic! Now I can’t wait until next weekend so i can bake bread again!

  7. John John
    December 16, 2008    


    Those look so wonderful. And a strong sour too? Congratulations on reaching your ideals. It has to be incredibly fun and exciting to achieve such success.

    Now I can’t wait to learn the Secrets of the Sour…when is that book available for pre-order?

  8. tatter tatter
    December 16, 2008    

    Wonderful loaves! I am sharing in your happinness 😀
    And thank you for leaving such a lovely comment – your recipe for Coffee and Onion Sourdough is a hit, regardless of how much talented the baker is! ;D

  9. tatter tatter
    December 16, 2008    

    happiness (of course)

  10. Peter Peter
    December 16, 2008    

    My God, that is the most beautiful looking bread. I’m going to have to give this a shot.

  11. December 17, 2008    

    Congratulations, they’re gorgeous, beautiful, fantastic! And thank you for giving us some very convincing evidence against the “wetter is better” mantra. I admire your dedication to experimentation!

  12. December 17, 2008    

    Thanks, it looks amazing!!! This is something that I always have been trying to do, but haven’t put on the information to my blog.
    Great work, will keep trying.
    I don’t understand how you get different hydration points. Any suggestions for that?
    It too am just a homemaker, but enjoy new ways to bake, especially breads and sourdough.

  13. December 17, 2008    

    Forgot to say your pictures are also beautiful!!!! It gives me inspiration to try it.
    Thanks for showing us the way!

  14. December 19, 2008    

    This is such a beautiful bread and I enjoy new ways to bake bread. I’ll be trying this really soon.

  15. MC MC
    December 20, 2008    

    Mmm! These breads just beg to be devoured. Congratulations, they are gorgeous!

  16. morgan morgan
    December 26, 2008    

    I would kill for holes like those!

    Seriously, details please – how did you do it?

  17. plevee plevee
    December 28, 2008    

    How do you manage to score a perfect circle? Do you use a turntable? The bread looks gorgeous!

  18. December 29, 2008    

    Absolutely beautiful! Following your “recipe” and using your Northwest Sourdough starter / mother I got an amazing crumb with large holes just like you did. Now if I could only get the outside crust to look as nice as yours! Mine is either too pale or too dark and hardly any blisters. I’ve bought a roasting pan lid on eBay and it’s on the way. Maybe that will help?

  19. Chriscooks Chriscooks
    January 9, 2009    

    Hey ,I am a professional Baker and I do not have results like that ! I have hearth ovens and all. I wish I had more time to experiment.
    Great Job!! Keep up the good work and inspiration.

  20. Moriah Moriah
    January 25, 2009    

    “I am just a home baker like many of you. I started out several years ago baking bricks, just like many of you. ”

    OMG! There’s hope for the rest of us.

    Question: What’s the temp of your dedicated fridge? Will this work with a Le Cloche? I don’t have a stone yet.

  21. Terry Terry
    February 1, 2009    

    Hi Teresa, I love your site and all of the great info it is packed with. Like, you, I have been experimenting with a lot of the same variables to achieve consistency, I will try to emulate your exact method here, your results are beautiful and sound tasty. Question: which of the many starters you have did you use to make this motherdough and subsequent Griffin’s sourdough, is it your own Northwest, or do you think your San Francisco starter works best for this formula and technique (or something else yet?) Thanks for all the great info! –Terry

  22. michael michael
    February 6, 2009    

    I would like to buy a loaf, I used to live in Berkely, now in South Dakota, no good loafs here. Wow my mouth is watering, michael

  23. Jerry Jerry
    February 20, 2009    

    Fabulous report. Many of us have had the same experiences You have solved the conflict between long bulk fermentation for flavor , but the shorter times necessary to avoid getting a slack dough.
    I understand you had the bulk fermentation heated for several hours, but was not able to determine the total length of time for the bulk fermentation. I also was not able to determine at what temperature you fermented the mother, although you show a photo of the mother in the refrigerator.
    Thanks for a great job.

  24. LeeYong LeeYong
    October 5, 2009    

    Hi Teresa,

    This loaf looks wonderful! I’m so happy I came across your site today. By chance could you share this recipe with me… I would love to try it.

    Thank you for sharing your knowledge and experiments with all of us.

    Happy baking!

  25. December 2, 2009    

    is the sfo starter bought or one u made i am having trouble getting good flavor from my starter did the sourdough lady recipe i did one last year and it was as good as anything from the city thanks…………… bill fayetteville ga

    • December 2, 2009    

      Hi Bill, If you have a good starter with great flavor, go with it! There are lots of good starters out there. I obtained my SF starter from a man in San Francisco. It is fun to try different ones too. Have fun baking,Teresa

  26. John Hutchinson John Hutchinson
    March 23, 2010    

    Wow! I’m absolutely floored.

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